nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

“New Generation” reactors the saviours of the nuclear industry ? – Not very likely.

As things stand, no country, company or utility has any intention of betting billions on building an SMR supply chain. The prevailing scepticism is evident

Lobbyists debate responses to the nuclear power crisis, Online opinion By Jim Green – , 27 March 2017  Lobbyists debate solutions to the crisis  “……… The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors conclude that “a radical break from the present light-water regime … will be necessary to revive the nuclear industry”. Exactly what that means, the authors said, would be the subject of a follow-up article.

So readers were left hanging – will nuclear power be saved by failed fast-reactor technology, or failed high-temperature gas-cooled reactors including failed pebble-bed reactors, or by thorium pipe-dreams or fusion pipe-dreams or molten salt reactor pipe-dreams or small modular reactorpipe-dreams? Perhaps we’ve been too quick to write-off cold fusion?

The answers came in a follow-up article on February 28. The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors argue that nuclear power must become substantially cheaper and this will not be possible “so long as nuclear reactors must be constructed on site one gigawatt at a time. … At 10 MW or 100 MW, by contrast, there is ample opportunity for learning by doing and economies of multiples for several reactor classes and designs, even in the absence of rapid demand growth or geopolitical imperatives.”

Other than their promotion of small reactors and their rejection of large ones, the four authors are non-specific about their preferred reactor types. Any number of small-reactor concepts have been proposed.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been the subject of much discussion and even more hype. There’s quite a bit of R&D ‒ in the US, the UK, South Korea, China and elsewhere. But only a few SMRs are under construction: one in Argentina, a twin-reactor floating nuclear power plant in Russia, and three SMRs in China (including two high-temperature gas-cooled reactors). The broad picture for SMRs is much the same as that for fast neutron reactors: lots of hot air, some R&D, but few concrete plans and even fewer concrete pours.

There isn’t the slightest chance that SMRs will fulfil the ambition of making nuclear power “substantially cheaper” unless and until a manufacturing supply chain is mass producing SMRs for a mass market ‒ and even then, it’s doubtful whether the power would be cheaper and highly unlikely that it would be substantially cheaper. After all, economies-of-scale have driven the long-term drift towards larger reactors.

As things stand, no country, company or utility has any intention of betting billions on building an SMR supply chain. The prevailing scepticism is evident in a February 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on “insights and opinions of leaders across the sector” and the views of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers. Respondents predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”.

In the absence of a mass supply chain, SMRs will be expensive curiosities. The construction cost of Argentina’s 25 MWe CAREM reactor is estimated at US$446 million, which equates to a whopping US$17.8 billion / GW. Estimated construction costs for the Russian floating plant have increased more than four-fold and now equate to over US$10 billion / GW.

Small or large reactors, consolidation or innovation, conventional reactors or Generation IV pipe-dreams … it’s not clear that the nuclear industry will be able to recover however it responds to its current crisis.http://onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=18929&page=0

March 27, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

A declassified report describes strange UFO incident near a nuclear station

DECLASSIFIED: TR-3B UFO staked out nuclear power plant, claims shock government report http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/783479/TR-3B-UFO-Cooper-Nuclear-Station-Nebraska-Black-Vault  A TRIANGLE-shaped UFO hovered above a nuclear power plant for two consecutive nights newly declassified government files have revealed.  By JON AUSTIN, Mar 24, 2017  Papers released under freedom of information laws describe reports by a former security officer at the power plant describing the strange incident.

The unnamed officer worked at the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, Nebraska, according to the files released by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The incident was described as an “unidentified flying object violating the protected area at the station”.

According to the documents, the report was only received by the former employee in June 2010.

The report said: “An unidentified flying (UFO) object violated the protected area at Cooper Nuclear Station between 1986 and 1989, but the event was not reported to the NRC as required.

“The CI [confidential informant] described an event that occurred during his employment as a security officer.

“He was employed there from 1986 through 1989 and did not remember specifically when during that time the event occurred.

“While posted at the intake structure one night, he observed an ‘unidentified flying object’ fly down the Missouri River about 150 feet in the air and hover in front of the intake. He observed it for a few moments and then contacted a fellow security officer who also observed it.”

It said that after they watched it together, the object went back up the river.

Colleagues did not believe the pair, it was reported.

It said the following evening, the officer saw the UFO return.

He did not tell anyone until it came into the protected area and hovered just north of the reactor building.

The man described it as triangular in shape with a rotating circle of lights on the bottom. This matches the description of the alleged TR-3B triangular UFO, which some conspiracy theorists claim is a secret US spy craft developed using reverse engineered alien technology taken from crashed flying saucers.

It was also reportedly silent and a third of the size of the reactor building.

He the called the security room and most officers on shift reportedly saw it.

The report addedL “These individuals included (names reacted), all of whom still work at the plant today.

“After hovering there for a few minutes, the UFO exited the protected area and returned back up the river to the north as it had the previous night.

“The CI said that he never saw the UFO at the plant again after that evening.”The whistleblower said the incident should have been reported as a violation of the protected area space but was not reported.

The documents show that Nick Taylor, the NRC senior resident inspector, searched for corroborating documents from the time, but found nothing.

However, he said: “I’d be careful about concluding that if an event wasn’t recorded in CAP [Corrective Action Program] that it did not occur.”

The files were published on UFO website TheBlackVault.com, whose founder John Greenewald requested they be released.

The website includes millions of declassified documents, many obtained by Mr Greenewald.

March 25, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

A computer model to simulate how 20 MILLION people would react to nuclear bomb in New York City

Scientists to simulate how 20 MILLION people would react to nuclear bomb in New York City .  http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/scientists-simulate-how-20-million-10054846 Experts are building a computer model which will test how people and buildings would respond to a nuclear blast BY JAMIE BULLEN 18 MAR 2017  Scientists are testing how 20 million people would react to a nuclear attack in New York City.

Experts at the Center for Social Complexity in Virginia have been awarded a $450,000 (£363,000) grant to study the aftermath of a blast in the Big Apple.

 The money is being used to develop a computer model to simulate how up to 20 million people or “agents” would respond in the first 30 days after the bomb, The Atlantic reported.

The model is also expected to show how buildings and the environment would be affected.The simulated bombs will have a strength of up to 10 kilotons – half the amount used in the Hiroshima attack.

Professor William Kennedy predicted survivors would follow instructions and stay in place instead of running wildly on the streets in search of loved ones.

He told the magazine: “We’ve found that people seem to be reasonably well behaved [Ed.   oh isn’t that nice?] and do what they’ve been trained to, [Ed. very good. so it’ll all be OK? ] or are asked or told to do by local authorities. Reports from 9/11 show that people walked down many tens of flights of stairs, relatively quietly, sometimes carrying each other, to escape buildings. “We’re finding those kinds of reports from other disasters as well—except after Hurricane Katrina.”

The project is expected to take three years.

But professor Kennedy said he hoped to start experiments in the next six months and report some results from next year.

March 20, 2017 Posted by | technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UK plans for small nuclear reactors stalling. Bechtel pulls out.

Bechtel pulls out of mini-nuclear development, Construction News, 17 MARCH, 2017 Bechtel is to pull out of small modular reactor development, the US engineering giant has confirmed. The company said it would no longer be attempting to create its own SMR reactor after it was unable to find investment for its programme, or a utility company that would provide a site.

Bechtel’s SMR aspirations were as part of mPower, a joint venture with energy giant Babcock & Wilcox…..

Bechtel will take itself out of the government’s SMR reactor design competition.

In March 2016 the government launched its £250m SMR competition which set out to identify the preferred reactor technology to be rolled out across the UK over the next 15 years. The Bechtel team was listed as one of the 33 parties to have made it past the first round of the competition, including engineering firms such as Atkins and contractors such as Costain.

Alongside firms such as Westinghouse and NuScale Power, the mPower JV was one of the companies capable of developing the technology after its reactor design was recommended for “further government investigation” by the National Nuclear Laboratory in 2014.

The competition has stalled ever since, with sources telling Construction News that they have been largely left in the dark by the government over the next steps……

March 17, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, technology, UK | Leave a comment

NRC Accepts NuScale Small Modular Reactor Design Certification Application

Power Magazine,  03/16/2017 | Aaron Larson The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has accepted NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR) design certification application and will provide a design review schedule soon.

The NRC’s acceptance marks a major milestone for the first SMR design to ever attempt obtaining U.S. certification. NuScale, in which Fluor Corp. is a majority investor, submitted its application on January 12.

The certification process can take several years. The NRC set a 40-month target for completion, NuScale said. During that time, the NRC studies the reactor design to determine if it meets U.S. safety requirements. If a certification is issued, it is valid for 15 years and companies can reference the certified design when applying for combined licenses……http://www.powermag.com/nrc-accepts-nuscale-small-modular-reactor-design-certification-application/

March 17, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Bogus claims made for Transatomics’ molten salt nuclear reactor

Molten Salt Reactor Claims Melt Down Under Scrutiny http://www.powermag.com/blog/molten-salt-reactor-claims-melt-down-under-scrutiny/ 03/08/2017 | Kennedy Maize It was an astonishing event when two MIT nuclear engineering graduate students at the end of 2015 announced they had come up with a revolutionary design for a molten salt nuclear reactor that could solve many of the technological problems of conventional light-water reactors. Cofounders of the firm Transatomic – Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie – hyped their technology as able to run on conventional spent fuel, and “generate up to 75 times more electricity per ton of mined uranium than a light-water reactor.”

Their claims surfaced in MIT’s highly regarded magazine, Technology Review, under the headline, “What if we could build a nuclear reactor that costs half as much, consumes nuclear waste, and will never melt down?”

Dewan and Massie raised millions of dollars in venture capital, including a chunk of Peter Theil’s Founders Fund. Transatomic said it would have a demonstration reactor in operation by 2020. The entrepreneurs touted their technology, which had its roots in work of the legendary Alvin Weinberg at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1950s, as passively safe and more efficient than conventional nuclear generating technology.

Then it came under scrutiny from the MIT nuclear graybeards. The grad students got it wrong. Very wrong.

Transatomic’s response: Never mind.

The hyped claims for the technology prompted MIT physics professor Kord Smith to raise his eyebrows. As Technology Review reported, somewhat shamefacedly, Smith thought the claims for the technology were bogus, based on the physics, notified the MIT hierarchy, and launched an inquiry. The magazine quoted him, “I said this is obviously incorrect based on basic physics.” He asked the company to run a test, which ended up confirming that “their claims were completely untrue.”

Transatomic recalculated its hyperbolic claims, and posted the results. It concluded that “75 times” was fantastic, and the real figure was “twice,” still a worthwhile increase in fuel efficiency, but hardly earth shattering. The new analysis also concluded that the technology could not use spent fuel to power its reactor technology, undercutting a major claimed advantage for the technology.

Founder Leslie Dewan told Technology Review that she now hopes to develop a demonstration reactor by 2021. But any advanced technology of this sort that meets Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules would be decades away.

Was this hyperbolic advancement of the venerable molten salt technology intentional? MIT’s Smith, who blew the whistle on the claims, says it was innocent. The founders didn’t subject their initial calculations and claims to any kind of peer review. Smith told Technology Review, “They didn’t do any of this intentionally. It was just a lack of experience and perhaps overconfidence in their own ability. And then not listening carefully enough when people were questioning the conclusions they were coming to.”

In other words, this was another case of technology hubris, an all-to-common malady in energy, where hyperbolic claims are frequent and technology journalists all too credulous.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | spinbuster, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Uneasy collaboration between “old” nukes and “new ” nukes

GE Hitachi Nuclear developing new SMR with US company, March 14, 2017 Collaboration targets aging power plants in a bid to stimulate the industry

SOICHI INAI, Nikkei staff writer NEW YORK — As part of its strategy to service aging nuclear plants, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) will develop a cutting-edge small modular reactor in cooperation with Advanced Reactor Concepts, the company said Monday………

GEH has been targeting older plants with its own SMR currently under development, and decided to bring on board Advanced Reactor Concepts — also known as Arc Nuclear — due to its expertise with sodium-cooled reactor technology, key to producing SMRs.

The two companies will initially work on a next-generation SMR in Canada.

SMRs manufactured by GEH and Advanced Reactor Concepts each have about 10% the power-generating capacity as Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor.http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/GE-Hitachi-Nuclear-developing-new-SMR-with-US-company

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Canada, technology | Leave a comment

Small Modular Reactors have little hope of saving the nuclear industry

Terminal decline? Fukushima anniversary marks nuclear industry’s deepening crisis, Ecologist, Jim Green / Nuclear Monitor 10th March 2017 

“……..Small is beautiful? The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors argue that nuclear power must become substantially cheaper – thus ruling out large conventional reactors “operated at high atmospheric pressures, requiring enormous containment structures, multiply redundant back-up cooling systems, and water cooling towers and ponds, which account for much of the cost associated with building light-water reactors.”

Substantial cost reductions will not be possible “so long as nuclear reactors must be constructed on site one gigawatt at a time. … At 10 MW or 100 MW, by contrast, there is ample opportunity for learning by doing and economies of multiples for several reactor classes and designs, even in the absence of rapid demand growth or geopolitical imperatives.”

Other than their promotion of small reactors and their rejection of large ones, the four authors are non-specific about their preferred reactor types. Any number of small-reactor concepts have been proposed.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been the subject of much discussion and even more hype. The bottom line is that there isn’t the slightest chance that they will fulfil the ambition of making nuclear power “substantially cheaper” unless and until a manufacturing supply chain is established at vast expense.

And even then, it’s doubtful whether the power would be cheaper and highly unlikely that it would be substantially cheaper. After all, economics has driven the long-term drift towards larger reactors.

As things stand, no country, company or utility has any intention of betting billions on building an SMR supply chain. The prevailing scepticism is evident in a February 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on “insights and opinions of leaders across the sector” and the views of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers.

The Lloyd’s Register report states that the potential contribution of SMRs “is unclear at this stage, although its impact will most likely apply to smaller grids and isolated markets.” Respondents predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”.

The Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors are promoting small reactors because of the spectacular failure of a number of large reactor projects, but that’s hardly a recipe for success. An analysis of SMRs in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists sums up the problems:

Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors are a solution looking for a problem. Of course in the world of digital innovation, this kind of upside-down relationship between solution and problem is pretty normal. Smart phones, Twitter, and high-definition television all began as solutions looking for problems.

“In the realm of nuclear technology, however, the enormous expense required to launch a new model as well as the built-in dangers of nuclear fission require a more straightforward relationship between problem and solution. Small modular nuclear reactors may be attractive, but they will not, in themselves, offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy: high cost, safety, and weapons proliferation.”

Small or large reactors, consolidation or innovation, Generation 2/3/4 reactors … it’s not clear that the nuclear industry will be able to recover – however it responds to its current crisis……..http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2988749/terminal_decline_fukushima_anniversary_marks_nuclear_industrys_deepening_crisis.htm

March 11, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, technology, USA | Leave a comment

China planning nuclear power for space projects

China plotting SPACE INVASION as groundbreaking nuclear programme announced, Daily Star UK , 10 Mar 17  CHINA is going to use nuclear power as part of the superpower’s ultimate goal of dominating space. The country is testing and developing nuclear technology that can be used as part of its galaxy exploration plan.

Wang Siren, the vice chairman the China Atomic Energy Authority, confirmed the news yesterday.

He said nuclear power is going to be the most viable source of energy for conducting space projects, such as those planned for Jupiter and Mars…..

The announcement comes amid increasing fears of a potential cosmic conflict as countries battle it out for space dominance…..

Last year, a US official warned that the use of intergalactic weapons could have devastating consequences for people on Earth…..http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/595456/china-space-war-nuclear-power-russia-weapons-us-rockets-missiles

March 11, 2017 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

South Korea is trying to develop nuclear reprocessing technology other countries have failed at

US expert: uranium price falling, why is S. Korea seeking expensive spent fuel processing facilities? The Hankyoreh, 7 Mar 17

Frank von Hippel says South Korea is trying to develop two kinds of technology other countries have failed at

“The price of uranium is gradually falling, and it costs twice as much to acquire spent fuel processing facilities for running a fast reactor. I don’t understand why [South Korea] is trying to acquire such expensive facilities,” said Frank von Hippel, 80, a professor at Princeton University, during a lecture at a seminar called “Truth and Lies about Pyroprocessing” that was held at the Daejeon Youth We Can Center on Feb. 28. Von Hippel is the American nuclear expert who first proposed the term “proliferation resistance.”

“The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is trying to develop the two technologies that all other advanced countries have failed to develop, which is to say reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and liquid sodium-cooled fast reactors. While they claim to be pursuing nuclear fuel reprocessing as a way to manage nuclear waste, this doesn’t improve the problem but only makes it worse while incurring tremendous costs,” von Hippel warned.

“I don’t think the Trump administration and the Republicans are going to change the Obama administration’s nuclear policy [of non-proliferation],” he said. …..

“The Idaho National Laboratory promised to process 25 tons of spent nuclear fuel using pyroprocessing in five years, but they only processed five tons in 16 years, which cost a huge amount of money,” he went on to say.

The plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and to build fast reactors derives from false predictions about the future, von Hippel explains. In the 1950s, Americans expected that energy demand would double every decade, but the current energy demand is only twice what it was in the 1960s. The American nuclear energy establishment projected in the 1960s that nuclear energy would cover 100% of future energy demand, but at present nuclear power only provides 20% of energy in the US and just 10% of energy worldwide.

The plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel for use also derived from concerns about the depletion of uranium reserves and rising prices. But the dreaded rise in prices never materialized because predictions about the rate of increase of nuclear plants were way off and because the output of uranium mines has not decreased. “Currently, the cost of uranium only accounts for 1% of the cost that goes into producing electricity at nuclear plants. Even if spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed and used at fast reactors, it will only be about 2%. Not only is this a small percentage of the total cost, but it will only make the cost of generation more expensive. I don‘t know if it’s necessary to acquire high-cost facilities,” van Hippel said.

Along with the high cost, there are high risks, which means that hardly any countries are interested in building fast reactors, von Hippel contends. France’s fast reactor Superphenix cost 100 trillion won to develop but only operated at 8% before being decommissioned, and Japan’s Monju nuclear plant operated at just 1% for 20 years before it was decided last year to shut it down. The UK is also planning to end operations in 2018. China operated a pilot fast reactor in 2011, but after producing 20kg of plutonium, a small amount, it concluded that the benefits were marginal and suspended the program. Russia continues to operate these reactors, but there have reportedly been 15 fires at sodium fast reactors……

In von Hippel’s view, the most affordable policy for managing spent nuclear fuel is first storing nuclear waste in dry casks and then burying those casks deep underground in disposal sites that have been prudently designed with engineered barriers.http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/785468.html

March 8, 2017 Posted by | reprocessing, South Korea | Leave a comment

Up to £219 billion to clean up the UK’s nuclear mess: autonomous robots to be developed

flag-UKUK funding development of autonomous robots to help clear up nuclear waste A new UK consortium will be developing robots to handle nuclear sites, bomb disposal, space and mining. International Business Times,     By   February 28, 2017 The UK government is funding a new consortium of academic institutions and industrial partners to jump start the robotics industry and develop a new generation of robots to help deal with situations that are hazardous for humans.

robot-manchester-uni

It is estimated that it will cost between £95 billion and £219 billion to clean up the UK’s existing nuclear facilities over the next 120 years or so. The environment is so harsh that humans cannot physically be on the site, and robots that are sent in often encounter problems, like the small IRID Toshiba shape-shifting scorpion robot used to explore Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, often break down and cannot be retrieved.Remote-controlled robots are needed to turn enter dangerous zones that haven’t been accessed in over 40 years to carry out relatively straightforward tasks that a human could do in an instant.

The problem is that robots are just not at the level they need to be yet, and it is very difficult to build a robot that can successfully navigate staircases, move over rough terrain and turn valves.

To fix this problem, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is investing £4.6m ($5.7m) into a new group consisting of the University of Manchester, the University of Birmingham, the University of the West of England (UWE) and industrial partners Sellafield, EDF Energy, UKAEA and NuGen…….http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uk-funding-development-autonomous-robots-help-clear-nuclear-waste-1608985

 

March 1, 2017 Posted by | Reference, technology, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Scathing report from USA Energy Dept on CB&I Areva MOX ‘s nuclear project

MOXEnergy Department issues scathing evaluation of nuclear project  February 28 The Energy Department has delivered a blunt assessment of the work done by one of the world’s biggest companies in the nuclear business: “Unsatisfactory.”

For a decade, CB&I Areva MOX Services has been under contract with the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration to design, build and operate a facility near the Savannah River in Aiken, S.C.

Yet the project — designed to convert weapons-grade plutonium and uranium into a mixed oxide fuel for commercial nuclear power plants — has been running far beyond budget and way behind schedule. Estimates now put the price tag at $17 billion.

On Dec. 5, the NNSA completed a scathing evaluation that branded several of the company’s claims about the state of the project “misleading” and “inaccurate.” The agency said CB&I Areva’s claims that the project is 70 percent complete “are patently false.” A separate September 2016 Energy Department report said construction was only 28 percent complete……

CB&I Areva is a venture created as a combination of Chicago Iron & Steel and the French nuclear giant Areva. The company did not return calls for comment……

One of the project’s sharpest critics Tom Clements, director of the public interest group Savannah River Site Watch, obtained the December NNSA assessment through a Freedom of Information Act request. He called the evaluation “devastating.”

“I have never seen an asessment like that. It all but calls them liars,” he said……

the Obama administration continued to say the MOX plant at Savannah River wasn’t practical. What started as a $620 million project in 1999 with a 2006 starting date has become a $17 billion project still decades away from a start state. By some estimates, it would require a $1 billion a year appropriation, which the Obama administration said was unlikely at best…..

The assessment said that while the contractor boasted of “zero order non-compliance,” in fact the NNSA found evidence of non-compliance.

Overall, the NNSA awarded nothing from the $2.7 million available for a bonus payment to the contractors. It said, “there continued to be a lack of transparency and openness in external communications with key project stakeholders by the contractor including continued release of misleading and inaccurate project information.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/energy-department-issues-scathing-evaluation-of-nuclear-project/2017/02/28/8af4d11a-fd2c-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html?utm_term=.4b6e8e136ee6

March 1, 2017 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Oh dear! Transatomic Power has been making false claims about Generation IV nuclear reactors

text-cat-questionIt’s interesting the way that, for dubious nuclear enterprises, they like to put a young woman at the top. Is this to make the nuclear image look young and trendy? Or is it so they she can cop the flak when it all goes wrong?

Below – Leslie Dewan – CEO of Transatomic Power

dewan-leslie-poisoned-chaliceNuclear Energy Startup Transatomic Backtracks on Key Promises The company, backed by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, revised inflated assertions about its advanced reactor design after growing concerns prompted an MIT review. MIT Technology Review by James Temple  February 24, 2017 Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations, MIT Technology Review has learned.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, founded in 2011 by a pair of MIT students in the Nuclear Science & Engineering department, asserted that its molten salt reactor design could run on spent nuclear fuel from conventional reactors and generate energy far more efficiently than them. In a white paper published in March 2014, the company proclaimed its reactor “can generate up to 75 times more electricity per ton of mined uranium than a light-water reactor.”

Those lofty claims helped it raise millions in venture capital, secure a series of glowing media profiles (including in this publication), and draw a rock-star lineup of technical advisors. But in a paper on its site dated November 2016, the company downgraded “75 times” to “more than twice.” In addition, it now specifies that the design “does not reduce existing stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel,” or use them as its fuel source. The promise of recycling nuclear waste, which poses tricky storage and proliferation challenges, was a key initial promise of the company that captured considerable attention.

“In early 2016, we realized there was a problem with our initial analysis and started working to correct the error,” cofounder Leslie Dewan said in an e-mail response to an inquiry from MIT Technology Review.

The dramatic revisions followed an analysis in late 2015 by Kord Smith, a nuclear science and engineering professor at MIT and an expert in the physics of nuclear reactors.

At that point, there were growing doubts in the field about the company’s claims and at least some worries that any inflated claims could tarnish the reputation of MIT’s nuclear department, which has been closely associated with the company. Transatomic also has a three-year research agreement with the department, according to earlier press releases.

In reviewing the company’s white paper, Smith noticed immediate red flags. He relayed his concerns to his department head and the company, and subsequently conducted an informal review with two other professors.

“I said this is obviously incorrect based on basic physics,” Smith says. He asked the company to run a test, which ended up confirming that “their claims were completely untrue,” Smith says.

He notes that promising to increase the reactor’s fuel efficiency by 75 times is the rough equivalent of saying that, in a single step, you’d developed a car that could get 2,500 miles per gallon.

Ultimately, the company redid its analysis, and produced and posted a new white paper………

The company has raised at least $4.5 million from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Acadia Woods Partners, and Daniel Aegerter of Armada Investment AG. Venture capital veteran Ray Rothrock serves as chairman of the company.

Founders Fund didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry……https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603731/nuclear-energy-startup-transatomic-backtracks-on-key-promises/

February 25, 2017 Posted by | Reference, spinbuster, technology, USA | Leave a comment

New method to recycle lithium

recycle-rare-earths-2EurekAlert  7-FEB-2017 Efficient approach to leaching lithium and cobalt from recycled batteriesINDERSCIENCE PUBLISHERS Rechargeable lithium ion batteries power our phones and tablets they drive us from A to B in electric vehicles, and have many applications besides. Unfortunately, the devices that they power can fail and the batteries themselves are commonly only usable for two to three years. As such, there are millions batteries that must be recycled. Research published in the International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy describes a new way to extract the lithium and the cobalt that make up the bulk of the metal components of these batteries…..https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/ip-htr020717.php

February 8, 2017 Posted by | technology | Leave a comment

UK government’s work on Small Modular Nuclear reactors (SMRs) has slowed down

flag-UKSmall Modular Reactors NuClearNewsNo92 February 2017  Scotland Engineering giant Rolls-Royce is teaming up with a host of rivals including Amec Foster Wheeler and Arup and nuclear specialist Nuvia to develop mini-nuclear reactors. Rolls Royce believes the so-called next generation technology could text-SMRssupport as many as 40,000 jobs if the industry flourishes. The consortium is entering a £250m competition started last March by the Government, which wants to find the best SMR design for civil use. It is hoped the technology will be more cost-effective than conventional plants. (1) The companies believe SMRs will strengthen the UK’s energy security by reducing reliance on foreign gas imports and smoothing out the impact of ‘intermittent generation’ technologies.

In November 2015, the British government announced plans to invest at least £250 million over the next five years in a nuclear research and development program including a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK. Rolls-Royce submitted a paper to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, outlining its plan to develop a fleet of 7 GWe of SMRs with its partners. Other participants in the UK’s SMR competition include French-owned EDF Energy and its Chinese partner CNNC, Westinghouse and US developer NuScale Power. (2)

In the US NuScale has formally completed its design submission to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The 12,000-page application will now undergo a lengthy review by the NRC, which must approve the design before construction can begin. (3)

According to City AM the Government’s work on SMRs appears to have slowed down, and many companies were expecting mention of plans in the industrial strategy published in January, but there was nothing specific. (4)

  1. Telegraph 8th Jan 2017 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/01/08/rolls-royce-partners-rivals-mininuclear-reactors/
  2. World Nuclear News 9th Jan 2017 http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Rolls-Royce-names-partnersfor-UK-SMR-09011701.html
  3. NPR 13th Jan 2017 http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/13/509673094/miniaturized-nuclearpower-plant-u-s-reviewing-proposed-design
  4. City AM 8th Jan 2017 http://www.cityam.com/256579/rolls-royce-launches-partnership-engineering-giantsamec http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo92.pdf

February 4, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, politics, technology, UK | Leave a comment